Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
St Patrick’s National School
Trim, County Meath
Uimhir rolla: 13775K
Date of inspection: 5 November 2009
A whole-school evaluation which focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History was undertaken in November 2009 in St Patrick’s National School, Trim, County Meath. This report presents the evaluation findings and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
St Patrick’s NS is accommodated in a new school building opposite the cathedral in the town of Trim. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class and is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
Indications are that enrolment levels will remain stable for the next three years. Pupils’ attendance levels are good and the school has devised appropriate strategies to promote regular attendance.
1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision
The school has a very welcoming and positive atmosphere. This is evident in the excellent pupil-teacher relationships and in the breadth and balance of the curriculum delivered. Teachers recognise and value the individual needs and talents of all their pupils.
1.2 Board of management
The board of management is correctly constituted and works very effectively. Meetings are held four or five times during the school year or more frequently if required. Roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined and board members have availed of training for their roles. Minutes of meetings and financial transactions are carefully recorded and accounts are externally audited annually.
The board is dedicated to the development of the school in all its facets. In particular, the board is anxious to promote the educational and social development of its pupils, to provide high-quality resources to every classroom, and to maintain the new school building and its grounds to the highest standards. Board members are appropriately involved in the school planning process and all school policies and plans have been presented to the board for discussion and ratification.
1.3 In-school management
The school operates under the leadership of a very dedicated, caring and diligent principal. He fosters open communication and dialogue and has established very good relationships with pupils, his fellow teachers, parents, and the wider community. All school rules, routines and organisational arrangements are carefully implemented. The responsibilities of the special duties post have been carefully considered and they incorporate a good combination of tasks covering organisational, curricular and pastoral aspects of school life.
1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
An active parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary), has been established. Members have availed of training provided by the National Parents’ Council. Events are organised to involve all parents in a range of social activities, especially at Christmas and summer time, and in activities to generate financial support for the school. A newsletter, produced periodically by teachers, pupils and parents, keeps the wider school community well informed of all school-related activities. A mobile phone texting service is also provided by the school to deliver reminders and urgent messages to parents. Reports of pupil achievement are sent home annually and formal parent-teacher meetings are arranged each year. Parents expressed great satisfaction with the level of communication between home and school and with the level of individual attention each pupil receives in St Patrick’s NS.
1.5 Management of pupils
During the evaluation, the pupils displayed excellent behaviour and a settled, ordered learning environment pervaded the school. Pupils communicate in an open, respectful manner and display confidence in their achievements and pride in their school.
2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning
The quality of whole-school planning is good. Teachers engaged on a number of occasions with the support services and all organisational and curricular aspects of the school plan have been successfully completed. The organisational policies set out practical, clear procedures and curriculum plans are suitably comprehensive and reflect the individual nature of the school context. A system of action planning is underway and the school has identified aspects of the policies relating to information and communication technologies (ICT) and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) for development. It is recommended that the wording of the school enrolment policy should be reviewed to reflect current legislative requirements. Furthermore, it is recommended that there should be a greater degree of involvement by parents in the whole-school planning process.
The quality of teachers’ long-term planning is very good and comprehensive plans for all classes have been carefully devised. The quality of short-term planning varies across the school and a unified approach is not in evidence. There is a need for learning objectives in some curriculum areas to be made more specific. It is recommended that this aspect of the school’s work should be discussed by staff members and a common approach to short-term planning adopted. Similarly, a unified system to record monthly progress is recommended.
2.2 Child protection policy and procedures
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. Teachers faithfully promote oral language development using story, poems and rhymes to foster language competences. Pupils display confidence in their oral presentations and teachers’ questioning is effective at probing pupils’ responses and promoting thinking.
In both classrooms, a print-rich learning environment is evident. Reading is well taught and a rich stock of suitable reading material is available in classrooms and in the school library. Additionally, pupils in the senior room are taken to the nearby public library on a regular basis. At infants and junior level, a structured approach is taken to the teaching of phonics and in middle and senior classes, a class novel, text books and supplementary readers are all used effectively in the teaching of reading. A “Readathon” and book fair, both supported by the parents’ association, are held annually. A majority of pupils read extensively, keep a record of their reading, and display a good interest in books.
The quality of pupils’ writing is good. Pupils are provided with many opportunities to write freely about their experiences and their work is carefully monitored by teachers. The school’s excellent ICT facilities are used effectively to facilitate the writing process and to allow pupils to draft, re-draft and edit their work. Pupils’ written work is appropriately published through displays in classrooms or in the school’s newsletter. Pupils are given opportunities to express themselves in a variety of genres and the quality of their written work is generally good. Pupils at all class levels enjoy poetry and their own poetry-writing shows imagination and a creative use of language. A school-wide handwriting style has been agreed and is being implemented.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is generally good. There is a mathematics-rich environment, with relevant number facts and charts on display in both classrooms, and a good range of mathematical resources has been acquired. Mathematics is taught in a broad and balanced manner with lessons that are appropriately structured, sequenced and paced. Pupils display a good ability to use mathematical language and to apply it accurately during tasks. Pupils’ work in copybooks is carefully monitored. Appropriate attention is given to the learning of number facts, the development of mental Mathematics and problem solving. Early mathematical skills are well taught and a variety of appropriate materials and resources are used effectively during lessons. In general, pupils display a positive attitude to Mathematics. The interactive white boards in both classrooms are used effectively during lessons. In order to further develop the work being done, it is recommended that lesson objectives should be clearly described in teachers’ planning and shared with pupils at the beginning of lessons.
3.3 SESE - History
The quality of teaching and learning in History is good. The rich historical sources available in the locality are used effectively to foster children’s interest in the past. Field trips to sites of local historical interest are a feature of the work each year. Pupils speak knowledgably about the history of Trim Castle and its surrounding area. In both classrooms, ICT resources are used very effectively during History lessons. Appropriate teaching methods are used and pupils are facilitated to work in groups to hone their skills as historians. Story, local studies and aspects of life, society and culture in the past are all regularly addressed. An interesting feature of the work is the time capsule that pupils have constructed and filled with interesting artefacts from the present time. The plan is to carefully store the time capsule in the school with instructions that it should be opened in one hundred years. In addition, some interesting projects in History have been completed. The author of a book about Tom Crean, the Antarctic explorer, visited the school and spoke to pupils. Furthermore, the school has begun the work of compiling a set of digital photographs of features in the local area that have historical significance. This is very commendable. In order to develop the work further, it is recommended that the school should consider using a range of different textbooks rather than basing lessons on one set exclusively. Secondly, the school should consider reducing the period for retaining the time capsule unopened. Perhaps a time capsule could be compiled when pupils start school in junior infants and opened when they are in sixth class. Some interesting examples from the pupils’ own lives of continuity and change could be provided in this way.
The quality of assessment in this school is good. A range of assessment modes is used including teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, standardised tests and diagnostic tests. Assessment results are carefully tabulated and filed. Pupils’ work in copybooks and projects is carefully monitored. While teacher observation of pupils’ work is a commendable feature of assessment practice, it is recommended that teachers agree a common format for recording their observations in curriculum areas. It is further recommended that teachers examine the results of standardised tests in English and Mathematics to establish a clear picture of the school’s strengths and areas for development in these subjects.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
The school has the services of a learning-support resource teacher for eleven hours per week. The support teacher works in a well-resourced, comfortable setting. Pupils are withdrawn from class, either individually or in small groups, for supplementary teaching which focuses generally on literacy and numeracy. There is an appropriate emphasis on early intervention. The quality of teaching in the support setting is good. Positive, affirming interactions between teacher and pupils were observed and suitable teaching methods are used. A good emphasis is placed on oral work and the development of skills. Work is carefully structured and monitored. Individual plans and records are appropriately maintained and regular consultation with parents is a feature of the work.
To improve the support system further, it is recommended that some in-class support be provided, especially for the pupils of second class who are currently withdrawn for support with handwriting.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
Currently, there are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school.
· The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The board of management is effective and active in supporting the work of the school.
· The principal provides positive, committed leadership to the school.
· Learning resources, including ICT facilities, are of a high standard.
· Organisational routines are effective in ensuring the smooth running of the school.
· The teachers are caring, diligent and dedicated to providing a broad and balanced curriculum to all pupils.
· Effective teaching methods in line with the Primary School Curriculum (1999) are used.
· The school atmosphere is welcoming and open.
· The quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History is good.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school.
· It is recommended that the format for short-term planning and recording monthly progress be reviewed.
· It is recommended that parents be more centrally involved in the whole-school planning process.
· It is recommended that teachers further examine the results of standardised tests in English and Mathematics to establish a clear picture of the school’s strengths and of areas for development in
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published May 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of management and staff of St. Patrick’s N.S. wish to express our sincere satisfaction with the overall findings of our recent W.S.E. We also acknowledge the professionalism and courtesy of our visiting inspector.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
In light of the conclusions and recommendations of the inspection, we can confirm that:-
Common templates for cuntús míosúil and short-term planning have been agreed and adopted.
The results of all tests administered in the school are now computerised, making their analysis more accessible